Beirut (GPA) – Lebanese citizens voted in the first general election in nine years on Sunday. Here’s what happened in Lebanon’s election and what it means.
Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk will announce the official results Monday evening but preliminary numbers seem fairly accurate at this point. Early estimates suggested voter turnout was remarkably low: less than 50%.
Turnout in southern districts was slightly higher at almost 56%. Hezbollah’s Shia-led party along with Sunni or Christian allied parties enjoy strong support among residents in southern districts due to powerful resistance against Israeli invasions — a consistent dire threat throughout the south.
Important issues among voters in Lebanon include the economy, public services, and the refugee crisis. Tiny Lebanon has taken in a staggering number of Syrian refugees fleeing the Western-backed war against Syria which has stressed the local economy.
What Happened in Lebanon’s Election?
Citizens on social media reported harassment near polling stations and difficulty obtaining access to polling locations. Others simply felt unenthusiastic about the entire event. Political parties worked hard to motivate voters and provide access to polls for the elderly and people with disabilities.
According to reports, one person died and another three injured as a result of celebratory gunfire in northern districts.
Due to the low voter turnout, Hezbollah deputy secretary-general Naim Qassem attempted (unsuccessfully) with Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk to extend the 7:00 PM deadline.
- 500 candidates ran for 128 parliamentary seats.
- Western-backed parties and individuals lost 1/3 of their seats.
- Hezbollah and their Sunni or Christian allies boasted major victories securing 67 parliamentary seats throughout the country: more than half of all seats.
- The far-right Israeli-allied Christian group, Lebanese Forces, secured 15 seats: double that of the last election.
- Prime Minister Hariri’s party, The Future Movement won 21 seats: down 11 from 2009.
Successes among the resistance bloc will force Hariri and his Western-backed allies to form a unity government that includes substantial influence from Hezbollah and affiliated parties. Hezbollah’s allies include Amal Movement and President Michael Aoun’s Christian Free Patriotic Movement.
Saad Hariri already began questioning the accuracy of the results before they’ve even been officially announced citing a “new electoral law” and poor performance. Hariri pledged to continue working with his rival: the Hezbollah-allied Christian President Michael Aoun. With Lebanon’s election results, Hariri has no choice either way.
Being the first election in nine years, tensions ran high during the process. Increasing tensions further, Saudi Arabia recently threatened (and some say kidnapped) Prime Minister Saad Hariri into resigning — which didn’t happen upon his return to Beirut. Hariri, leading the Western-backed political bloc, enjoys considerable support from Saudi Arabia and their western allies.
The Western bloc’s losses show a growing divide among Sunni voters since the 2009 election. As Lebanese political analyst Marwa Osman writes for American Herald Tribune:
“President Saad Hariri and the Future Movement received the biggest blow in his history. He can no longer talk about monopolizing Sunni representation in the country and monopolizing the representation of big cities, nor about leading the political team of the US-Saudi axis in Lebanon.”
The results of the election could alter the course in Syria and other theatres. Hezbollah and their allies now have veto power to sway various policy decisions which the West cannot ignore.
Hezbollah’s success is likely to be a sore spot for Washington, Tel Aviv, and Riyadh. The United States routinely provides the Lebanese government with military aid in attempts to counter Hezbollah and their pro-Palestine, anti-U.S. intervention allies. Washington, Riyadh, and Tel Aviv have done everything in their power to reduce resistance influence throughout Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria — failing miserably.